NASA Makes “Exciting” Discovery In The Sky

( )- Last week, NASA announced that scientists discovered a rocky planet about 95 percent of the size of Earth called TOI 700 e that could contain liquid water.

TOI 700 e is the fourth planet to be discovered in the TOI 700 system which is 100 light years away from Earth. The star around which the planets orbit is called TOI 700. But only the planets TOI 700 d and TOI 700 e orbit in a “habitable zone,” which is the area that is just the right distance from a star for water to exist on the surface of the planet and conditions are neither too hot nor too cold to sustain life.

According to Emily Gilbert, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the TOI 700 system “is one of only a few systems with multiple, small, habitable-zone planets that we know of.”

Gilbert, who led the research team, said the newly-discovered Earth-sized TOI 700 e is 10 percent smaller than the previously-discovered TOI 700 d. It takes TOI 700 e 28 days to orbit its star while TOI 700 d takes 37 days.

Gilbert’s team discovered the planets during observations using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

TESS’s two-year mission allowed scientists to survey solar systems and monitor the brightness of stars for periodic drops caused by planets moving past them. The TESS mission ended in 2020 but was subsequently expanded for another year, during which time TOI 700 e was discovered.

Ben Hord, a graduate researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said if the TOI 700 star was a bit closer or TOI 700 e was a bit bigger, they might have spotted the planet during the first year of TESS data.

So far, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has found 66 new exoplanets beyond our solar system. It also indicated 2,100 potential exoplanets astronomers are working to confirm.

Emily Gilbert said the discovery of TOI 700 e proves that TESS can help them “find smaller and smaller worlds.”